One in three Australian women will have an abortion at some point in their life. And polling consistently shows that the vast majority of Australians — around 80 per cent — believe in a woman’s right to choose that option.
Yet there are still several barriers that make this safe, common medical procedure difficult to access for tens of thousands of women.
To start with, Australian abortion laws are determined at a state level. This means that how and when a woman can lawfully obtain an abortion varies around the country. For examples, while most states have decriminalised abortion, in New South Wales it remains a criminal offence.
The availability and cost of abortion services also varies hugely, forcing some women to travel long-distances — even interstate — to receive necessary care.
Here’s what you need to know about abortion in Australia.
Types of abortion: medical vs surgical.
Women typically have two options for abortion, depending on the gestation of the pregnancy.
Medical abortion is available to women within the first nine weeks, i.e. less than 63 days from the first day of their last period. It involves taking two prescribed medications over two days – mifepristone (RU486) and misoprostol – in order to end the pregnancy. Medical abortion is available via private clinics, plus some GPs and public health services, and is successful in 93-98% of cases.
Some providers also offer medical abortion via telehealth, in which a patient in the early stages of an unwanted pregnancy consults with a doctor over the phone/video call. The patient will be sent for a blood test and ultrasound, and if eligible will then have abortion medication delivered to them via courier. This service is not available in the ACT or South Australia, and additional regulations apply in certain states.
Surgical abortion is a routine day-surgery procedure that is most commonly performed in the first trimester (up to 12–14 weeks’ gestation). The patient is placed under anaesthetic, and the pregnancy tissue is removed from the uterus using a gentle suction. The procedure, which is performed at a clinic or hospital, is considered one of the safest surgeries in Australia and is roughly 98 per cent effective.
How much does abortion cost in Australia?
The cost of medical and surgical abortions will vary depending on a number of factors, including: which state you live in, whether you are in a rural or metropolitan area, whether or not you have private health insurance, and the gestation of the pregnancy.